By Taylor Short
The Cove Herald
The Coryell county commissioners reviewed the Leon River project Monday and approved the purchase of an upgraded security system in the wake of a murder-suicide that occurred on the steps of the courthouse Feb. 15.
The court approved the installation of a $6,515 security upgrade that would add 107 additional panic buttons that, when pressed, would alert police to the exact location of an incident.
"This is an opportunity for us to kind of think through, based on the events of last week and just our normal business, whether that's something we want to consider today," said County Judge John Firth.
Gatesville police said suspected shooter David Louis Henry, 46, fatally shot Carrie Dean Stroope, 42, before killing himself outside the Coryell County courthouse Feb. 15. Both were pronounced dead at the scene.
The county currently has 20 panic buttons in various places throughout county buildings and the upgrade would triple the wireless distance that the alert would travel.
"I think it'd be a good idea to upgrade," said Sheriff Johnny Burks who added that a button press would send a broadcast over police radios in the area.
County Auditor Ben Roberts said the money is already budgeted for courthouse security.
The commissioners also gave an update on the contested Federal Emergency Management Agency's floodplain map during the meeting Monday.
Darren Poe, Coryell county engineer, acquired Texas Department of Transportation documents with data that shows elevation measurements for Mound – saving the county $5,000 intended to pay Walker, Wiederhold & Associates to survey the area.
After the FEMA floodplain map was released, outcries from upset homeowners who lost property value urged the county to push for an extended effective date. Now, FEMA is asking for evidence that the map is inaccurate before agreeing to amend it.
The information Poe received shows that most of the city of Mound, the area that saw the biggest change in the floodplain, is below 695 feet, which FEMA indicates is a high-risk flood zone.
Firth said the state offers grant money for flood studies, but the county would have to wait until applications are being accepted to fund a complete flood and hydrology study.
Leon River project
Monday was the last day for Coryell County residents to comment about a proposed U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project to restore the eroded banks of the Leon River.
The Fall Off Creek Mitigation project would dam the Leon River near County Road 344, restoring flow to the historic river channel by redirecting flows from the existing ditch to the original channel, according to a USACE public notice. The USACE extended the comment period by 30 days to Feb. 22.
Precinct 3 Commissioner Don Jones said there were more than 40 letters sent.
The USACE claim a comment period was announced by public notice but Firth said the initial notice was placed in The Gatesville Messenger about a month ago when the period was extended to Feb. 22.
The USACE will review the letters and decide whether to have public hearings, and if not, Firth said he's prepared with the commissioners to take the issue all the way to Gov. Rick Perry.
"They claim they legally did it, but again, because we're convinced that all the right parties along the Leon River were not advised of that public notice…now it's just a matter of, are they going to honor what we're asking, which is a formal public hearing," he said.
In a letter to the USACE, the Coryell County Farm Bureau President Neil Walter outlined the concerns for the project, including warnings about pumping water from the river, the effect of the feral hog population in the county and that changing the direction of flow in the river goes against the natural progression.
He also mentioned that residents do not appreciate the lack of "public disclosure" and a "veil of secrecy" surrounding the project.
In announcements, Firth said there have been 1,219 early votes for the May 8 local election in Coryell County as of Monday.
Early voting ends today.
Contact Taylor Short at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7476. Follow him on Twitter at KDHcove.